Film Writer-Director Priyanka Banerjee Talks To Us About The Inspiration Behind The Rusty Reads Series
Plus: What inspired the 3-part fundraiser and more
As a child, most of us have a fond memory of Ruskin Bond books – whether it was curling up with your favourite one, packing one for a summer vacation, or even just brushing up for an exam. Having been a consistent part of most of our childhoods, the favourite has returned – this time, in the form of the Rusty Reads series. A three-part episodic series by Leogirl Productions in collaboration with Teach for India, Rusty Reads shows celebrities and influencers reading out from The Adventures of Rusty. Created to raise funds for virtual classrooms, to help low-income household children fight the learning crisis brought on by this pandemic, the series is bound to take you on a nostalgic field trip through your childhood. Ahead of the release of the first episode, we caught up with the founder of Leogirl Productions and film writer-director Priyanka Banerjee to know more:
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ELLE: Can you tell us a little more about the Rusty Reads series?
Priyanka Banerjee: We took Ruskin Bond’s very iconic children’s book, The Adventures of Rusty, and got different artists, celebrities, musicians, even film critics to read three chapters from it, to raise awareness and funds for Teach for India. For us, the idea was to essentially raise awareness about the educational inequities the current pandemic has brought to light since there are so many children from lower-income households, who haven’t had access to virtual education.
ELLE: How did the idea of the series come about?
PB: The idea for this series actually came from the fact that we had actually seen something similar in the West, where the Roald Dahl Institute had a bunch of celebrities and influencers read the book, James and the Giant Peach, to raise awareness for Partners In Health. When we at the Leogirl Production team came across this, we wondered why no one has done something similar in India, since we have so many great children’s book authors. We love doing work that makes a difference, and this idea seemed perfect for this cause.
ELLE: Why did you specifically pick author Ruskin Bond for the series?
PB: I think we need to acknowledge the fact that while global children’s authors, such as Roald Dahl and JK Rowling are revered, we don’t always respect the work of our own Indian children’s authors, even though we’ve essentially grown up with them. Having read Ruskin Bond throughout our childhood, we felt that he was an author everyone was familiar with. Also, he writes so beautifully about the Indian subcontinent, and as a child, you travel through India with his stories. We felt a certain connection with his writing, and personally, everyone on the team loves Adventures of Rusty. Additionally, having him around also made a huge difference, and made it super exciting for us to have him on-board for this project.
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ELLE: In light of the pandemic, how do you think we as a community can do better?
PB: I think it’s been such a disruptor as a year, we should all give ourselves a pat on the back for how we have handled it. I think the areas we can do better as a community is simply being there for one another, in terms of our compassion, in terms of our consideration for other people’s mental health, and in terms of sharing resources. Even when it came to Rusty Reads, series like this one are a way to bring some joy and some reminder of the goodness in this year, and I feel like a children’s book, along with some friendly faces reading an author we are familiar with, is a wholesome way to end the year.
ELLE: What have some of your greatest learnings been during this period?
PB: I think my greatest learning has been being able to enjoy time with myself and with people that matter. I’ve learnt so much about myself, about how I deal with a crisis, and my self-knowledge has definitely gone up. Most importantly, though, I’ve really understood the spirit of giving, and as an artist, this is my way of opening my heart and contributing to a better world.
The first episode of Rusty Reads comes out today. You can watch it here.